HAGERSTOWN, Md. - When a Walmart comes to town, small businesses are often impacted, but for the owner of South Mountain Spirits in Washington County, what came before the store opening proved to be the hard part.
"For the last eight months, this has been a disaster out here; just a complete traffic disaster,” said Ron Hammond, Owner, South Mountain Spirits.
Hammond has owned South Mountain Sprits on Sharpsburg Pike for a little over four years. He said the overhaul of improvements and projects, in preparation for the new Walmart, has been sucking his business dry.
"I know that this business is down. It's had a significant impact in the last three months,” Hammond said.
He said burger joints and chains get a new base of customers daily, but for liquor stores, it's harder, as he found out in conversations with old customers.
"Every one of them I would ask, 'I haven't seen you in the store in awhile. Is everything okay?' and 99 out of 100 times, it would be, 'We stay away from the area,’” Hammond said.
Hammond said there was a lack of transparency between Walmart, which funded the project, the Maryland State Highway Administration, which owned the road, and Pike Construciton, a Rochester, N.Y.-based company that oversaw the project.
"In fact, a guy showed up to my door one day from the construction company, and he said, 'We're gonna have to close the entrance for about six weeks to your store,” Hammond said.
Hammond negotiated with officials to only have his entrance closed for five days, and he said now that the dust has settled, he’s ready to welcome back customers, while playing Santa Clause.
Hammond is collecting toys for children in need.
"When you stop in here, if you think about it, please pick up a toy and drop it in the basket for kids that might not get anything this year,” Hammond said.
Despite the hardships, Hammond said the roadway is much improved from its original design.
"It is definitely moving now, and it's looking good. So, it's safe to come back,” Hammond said.
In addition to the toy drive, Hammond is auctioning off a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle, one of the rarest bourbons in the world!